The Steamboat Springs City Council members agreed Tuesday that they need more information before making any decisions about Steamboat Springs Airport's future.
The council voted unanimously to complete a new Steamboat Springs Airport Master Plan and a separate study of the airport overall. The study would be conducted by an independent party and would analyze all aspects of the airport operation, including alternative uses for the airport.
Selected the firm Andrews and Anderson Architects to evaluate three possible sites for a community center: the George P. Sauer Human Services Center, Memorial Park and Stock Bridge Transit Center. The previous council made a commitment to replace the community center, which will be torn down for expansion of the Bud Werner Memorial Library.
Approved the establishment of a city of Steamboat Springs Public Art Board to advise the council about how to spend public money for public art.
But City Council President Ken Brenner cautioned the vote was not about closing the airport. He accused Steamboat Today of being "overexcited" in its reporting of the issue Tuesday.
"We need to support general aviation in the valley," said council member Susan Dellinger, who also serves on the Yampa Valley Airport Commission. However, she said, the council needs "the other half" of the information about the airport -- the alternatives.
Those alternatives, Dellinger said after the meeting, range from closing the airport to expanding it.
She said she was willing to spend the money to complete the alternatives study.
The alternatives study will cost as much as $100,000; completing the master plan will cost about $250,000. Federal and state funds could pay for as much as 80 percent of the master plan costs.
The master plan would include development options for the airport and data about aviation and its future in the Yampa Valley. The last master plan was completed in 1998 and was based on flights by a commercial aircraft that is no longer in service.
The alternatives study likely will explore the possibility of consolidating aviation service at Yampa Valley Regional Airport and finding another use for Steamboat Springs Airport and its land. The value of land and facilities at Steamboat Springs Airport also would be assessed.
During the meeting Mike Forney, a general aviation pilot, said he was in favor of having an independent consultant study the airport. The study may answer people's questions, he said.
"It's really difficult for the average citizen to sort out the facts from opinions," Forney said. He asked the council to do the study "thoughtfully, thoroughly and professionally."
Kathy Connell, a former council member who served on the airport commission, asked the council to look into the economic effects of having an airport in Steamboat.
Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort As----sociation, said that a top goal of the chamber is to see expansion of the regional airport. However, she said, the Chamber will continue to support Steamboat's airport, as well.
Resident John Spezia said he was concerned about expansion of the airport. He said the land might be useful to provide affordable housing. He also was concerned about quality of life issues associated with expanded service.
Council member Paul Strong said he was in favor of doing both studies because he thinks the council needs to learn more before deciding what should happen at the airport next.
"I think we need as much information as we can to make this decision," Strong said.